The Strava phase seems to have slowed a bit. Perhaps riders have settled into their natural ‘ranking’ and the drive to push oneself for a KOM, QOM, PR, or top 10 has deteriorated. Strava is clearly aimed at cyclists who love to push themselves physically – to ride faster on segments, ride for more time, a longer distance, or with greater elevation each ride. But what about those cyclists who don’t have such competitive drive to continually ride faster or for longer, but still seek incentive and recognition?
Well, much to my surprise, there are stacks of other types of cycling apps that track, encourage, and reward. You can actually use apps to earn real-life benefits based on how far you ride! The rewards include coffee, beer, meal vouchers, bike repairs, discounts, frequent flyer points, and charity donations. So, the new ‘incentive to ride’ is not only to get a physical workout, but to get a physical bonus, make it more fun to see results, or to feel good about donating to a good cause.
Society benefits, too. By submitting your cycling data in apps, your information and that of other cyclists can be used by governments or councils to understand and plan transportation policies and infrastructure, and contribute to other urban planning and environmental studies.
As to any drawbacks, we have just three minor ones: 1) Not all apps work everywhere (we tested from Adelaide, South Australia), so you need to check a few of them to find those that work in your region or country. 2) You'll need to allow some data permissions, but none that are irregular or alarming. 3) We don't see any reason you can't run more than one app at a time to multiply your incentives, so you might need a new, faster phone and/or more storage space to download and run a stack of them. :)
Here are some of the most popular cycling incentive apps out there
The idea with the Biko app is that you earn 1 Biko per every kilometer (0.62 miles) you ride. Save up your Bikos and then cash them in for rewards. For example, in Vancouver you can trade in 100 Bikos for a $25 gift card at a local brewery – sweet! We also like that some areas have rewards for local bike shops.
Biko rewards are available in 13 cities in 4 countries. Currently there are no Biko rewards partners in Australia. When we spoke to Biko they said “we are looking to expand more every day.” They suggested riders in Australia start collecting and saving Bikos now, then spend them later on when the Biko team get Down Under. The app itself is very simple, but you need to remember to turn it on and off for each ride.
Charity Miles is fairly self-explanatory. You ride your bike and earn money for a charity of your choice – choose from 30 world-class charities such as the Alzheimer's Association or World Wildlife Fund. Unlike a charity ride, you don’t have to open your wallet. Charity for miles gets sponsors like Johnson & Johnson and MasterCard to fund the donations. When you use the app, you will see adverts from the sponsors on the screen while it is in use, but if you are riding, your phone is probably in your bag or pocket, so the adverts don’t bother you anyway. Charity Miles states “The money comes from our corporate sponsors who are repurposing their advertising budgets for good”. So, expect adverts and emails, but with the understanding that money is being generated to help charities.
The Charity for miles app is available for both iPhone and Android, and motion tracing and GPS phone permissions are required.
In Australia you can use the Qantas Assure app, which allows you to turn your cycling into free flights.
You can earn up to 1,500 Qantas points within a 28 day trial period, but then the accrual of points slows down unless you purchase an Eligible Qantas Assure Product. You can still earn the points, but it is just at a reduced rate.
You must be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program (an $89.50 AUD one-time cost) to earn Qantas Points. Good news though, this will be waived if you join when you download the App. The points are then credited to your frequent flyer account (Source: http://wellness.qantasassure.com/qantasassureapp).
It’s not that easy to earn enough points to fly anywhere exotic. I set my weekly goal as 90 km a week, which would earn me 85 points. You need about 8,000 points to fly from Sydney to Brisbane. So it would take me about 2 years to earn enough points. But if you sync it in with your existing cycling app like Strava, Garmin, Fitbit and Health (iPhone) or Google Fit (Android), then you really don’t need to do much except keep building up the points and eventually get free flights.
This one is a simple app where you set your ‘mission’ and track against progress. Your mission is a start to end point on a map, that can be any two points in the world. Want to set your goal to ride from the Eiffel Tower to Big Ben? Buenos Aires to Ushuaia? Then plot your mission and watch how you progress across your chosen route. MyVirtualMission will track your cumulative time it takes to complete your mission and you can visually see how ‘far’ you have ridden, which keeps you motivated.
The app can sync with Strava, Fitbit and Map My Ride, which makes things easy. You can share your mission with the world, and also view other people’s missions for encouragement. It also has the ability to track fundraising events for charities.
GreenMoney is a new Australian app where you earn points when you take on simple green challenges like recycling, cycling, and living more sustainably (you can earn points for taking a quiz to learn more about recycling). You then redeem your points for exclusive offers on movie tickets, coffee and food. It's free to become a member, but at the moment it is limited to residents in Blacktown City and City of Melbourne, Australia.
Endomondo, by Under Armour, aims to make fitness fun by giving you a ‘virtual coach’ in your pocket while you ride. Set your own targets and then get real time verbal feedback and encouragement as you go. A virtual personal trainer is right there in your ear while you ride! This one is great for people who need real-time feedback to stay motivated rather than only being able to check your stats after a ride.
So, for those cyclists who didn’t catch the Strava-ride-as-fast-as-you-can bug or want to supplement it, there are plenty of addictive apps to make you feel good or reward you for riding.